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2017 Phillies Position Preview: Phillies outfield has it all, in theory

Everyone will get their shot in a Phillies outfield made up of players reaching for their ceilings.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Power. Speed. Defense. The Phillies outfield can boast all of it, just none from the same guy. The team brought in veterans to stabilize the batting order and has speedy prospects to cover a lot of ground. As time goes, we’ll see if these things exist as more than just theorems on the back of Matt Klentak’s napkin, but for now, the FA signings seem to make sense, and the mob of rookies waiting at the door is exciting.

Michael Saunders

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Saunders is hitting just .229 this spring but does have a .362 on-base percentage in 19 games. Saunders (and the rest of us) survived a March 24 scare after he was hit in the hand with a pitch in a game against the Yankees. He’ll slot in as the Phillies’ right fielder come Opening Day, and will hope to put together a full, healthy 162-game season. Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 with the Blue Jays, but his bat didn’t show up for the second half of the season, possibly due in part to a .221 BABIP post- All-Star Break. The Phillies will be counting on Saunders to provide some middle-of-the-lineup power, something they have been lacking from the outfield in recent memory.

There are no guarantees for Saunders, however. If he doesn’t put up numbers at least somewhat similar to his first half in Toronto last year (.298/.372/.551, 16 HR, 42 RBI) he may have Aaron Altherr breathing down his back in right field.

Roman Quinn

The numbers game ended up being pretty tough for Quinn. The emergence of Brock Stassi didn’t help either, so Quinn is heading down to the minors to start the 2017 season. But if he’s healthy, we’ll certainly see him at some point, you would imagine. Quinn did appear in 15 games at the tail end of the 2016 campaign for the Phils, showing off his 80 speed with five steals while hitting .263/.373/.333. Despite the small sample size, that’s probably a pretty good representation of what Quinn can do in the Majors.

The Phillies should count on him to be a fourth or fifth outfielder starting in 2018, but for now, Coghlan and Daniel Nava will likely be seeing that role in 2017. Quinn is starting his age 24 season, so he’s still got plenty of time to make an impact. He won’t be making that impact in the Majors to start 2017, though.

Odubel Herrera

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You know ‘Dubes. You know what he can do. Hell, there’s few guys on this roster you know better. "Rule 5" isn’t supposed to get its name from the amount of years on your contract extension, but here we are, living in a world where Herrera, found on the Rangers’ scrap heap, has a five-year, $30.5 million deal with the Phillies for being their only 2016 All-Star.

He may get shuffled in the ensuing outfield tryouts of the coming months, but he’ll still have his shot to prove there’s even more power in that bat and that he’s learned how to track a fly ball. But if all he did was keep those walk numbers up - an area in which he floored onlookers by improving as much as he did from 2015 (28BB in 147 G) to 2016 (63 BB in 139 G) - keep being an annoyance on base, and sustain that Gold Glove-caliber defense, El Torito would be doing fine.

Howie Kendrick

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Brought in in an attempt to add some veteran presence to a young outfield and to generate some much-needed power in the lineup, Howie Kendrick is an 11-year veteran of the Greater Los Angeles Area. He was fittingly acquired on Veteran’s Day in a trade that sent Darin Ruf to, and Darnell Sweeney back to, the Dodgers.

Long a second baseman, and now presumably an outfielder / utility player, Kendrick struggled offensively in 2016, slashing just .255/.326/.366/.691 with eight home runs, which represents an upgrade for the Phillies largely because he replaces Ruf and Jimmy Parades. Just two years ago, however, Kendrick was in a string of nine consecutive seasons with an OPS+ of 97 or above, during which he averaged 40 extra-base hits per season, and if he can recapture just some of that, it’ll help make the Phillies more watchable this year.

In the outfield, expect him to be firmly planted in left field, where his 120 games over 4 seasons of experience rate rather boringly average. Versatility is a bit of an overused cliché in the baseball online nowdays, but Kendrick does give the Phils a player who won’t embarrass them at three other positions (first, second and third).

Daniel Nava

Daniel Nava was once, briefly, the holder of an all-time Major League record: most career runs driven per pitch seen, with four. On June 12, 2010, as a member of the Red Sox, Nava drove a Joe Blanton pitch into the seats for a grand slam on the first pitch of his first career at bat.

It was downhill from there.

Last year, Nava spent 54 games between the Angels and Royals, with a combined OPS of .589. The year before, he spent 60 games in Boston and Tampa Bay, with a combined OPS of .560. Needless to say, nobody should expect Nava to light the NL East on fire this summer while he’s manning one of the outfield corners for the Phils. If he makes the final roster, expect him to contribute in a bench role.

Nick Williams

Consistently rated one of the Phillies’ best prospects (51st overall by Baseball Prospectus), the 23-year old Nick Williams struggled at AAA Lehigh last year, with an OPS of just .714 (including striking out more than a third of the time in his last month). Never scout stat lines, but there was obviously something not right with his performance—after all, he had just completed a very convincing 2015 season at AA.

Starting the season in a repeat of AAA, Williams acknowledges that his 2016 campaign was a letdown; and while there was some controversy over his being benched for "lollygagging" by manager Dave Brundage, Williams himself has stated that he "was immature." Hopefully his attitude shift pays off—the degree that "respecting the game" gets one on base is inconclusive, but getting along with your manager can’t hurt.

The Phillies will definitely have a spot in the outfield ready for Williams if he performs.

Dylan Cozens

Dylan Cozens certainly found his power stroke at AA Reading last year. The then-22 year old outfielder lead the Eastern League with 40 home runs, besting his teammate Rhys Hoskins by two. While Reading’s First Energy Stadium is known as a hitter’s park, Cozens’ power is very real (70-75 raw power, according to some). Cozens is nearly all-bat, however: he is an enormous man, and may find himself confined to first base or designated hitter roles in the future.

In the meantime, as an outfielder, he’s below average in the corners. His arm should be enough for right field, and in fact, that is where he is likely to play at AAA Lehigh to start this season.

If Cozens can repeat his offensive performance a level up, look for him to be in Philadelphia before the end of the season.

Tyler Goeddel

Tyler Goeddel was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Phillies in 2016, confined to spend the entire season on the Major League roster, despite clearly being outmatched, because the Phils saw something they liked. Goeddel slashed a meager .192/.258.291/.549 with four home runs. It isn’t fair to Goeddel to judge him based on this line, however. As a Rule V pick, he had to ride the bench or be offered back to Tampa Bay.

He’ll go to AA Reading to start this season. In 2015, while in the Rays’ AA Montgomery Biscuits, he hit an impressive .279/.350/.433/.783. If his lost year doesn’t handicap him, he may turn into a usable player yet again.

Goeddel is a long shot to return to Philadelphia this year, but should be in AAA before the end of the season if he plays his cards right. Which is not exactly news he would want to hear, but there’s a long line of outfielders who didn’t hit .165 against lefties and drain the Phillies of -1.4 WAR last year in front of him.

Aaron Altherr

When not pining for a Team Germany to play for in the World Baseball Classic, Altherr spent the spring wowing critics who were concerned about his return following a largely missed 2016 due to a wrist injury accrued from a spring training dive. His tight defense from all three outfield positions has been supplemented by the fact that he can just do this to a baseball, given his mood.

The Phillies haven't made things easy, having added Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick to an outfield line that already included Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Nick Williams, but the first two are aging vets with bodies recovering from past injuries, making Altherr's projection as the Phillies' fourth outfielder all the more feasible. Is a 20 HR season on the table? The wrist injury undoubtedly changed Altherr's swing for the worse, as he slashed only .197/.300/.288 with 69 SO in 57 games last season. But this spring, he pounded the ball, slugging .591 with 4 HR and a .303 BA. The 26-year-old is ready to play. The Phillies will find a place for him.